When a member of the Standard Culture edit team announced he was headed to Colorado for Aspen Gay Ski Week, some of us were like, "What? That's a thing?" Curious, we asked him to file a report...Here's what he had to say!
Just because she's rich, doesn't mean she's a bitch.
Most people think of Aspen as the playground for the supersonically spoiled, and while it does hold the title as the most expensive real estate in the United States, beneath the town's glitzy facade is the real Aspen, a cultural and intellectual mecca. When industrialist Walter Paepcke founded the Aspen Ski Corporation in 1953, he simultaneously founded the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Aspen Center for Physics. Today, the town hosts as many festivals, foodies, ballerinas, painters, cellists, economists and quantum physicists, as it does furriers, earning its unofficial slogan as, "the world's biggest small town."
In 1977, during its counter-cultural heyday, around the time Hunter S. Thompson tried to run for mayor, the world's first Gay Ski Week – a sort of pride parade on skies – began.
Don't let Cloud 9's quaint exterior fool you. Inside it's champagne-soaked pandemonium.
A Race and a Marathon:
Sunday-Wednesday sees a smattering of events including a film night, a shopping day, and a spa day. Not sure who goes to these things, but they're on the schedule. Each day has a mountain du jour (there are four in the Aspen/Snowmass area) and après ski is always at the Lime Light Hotel. Picture a modish ski lodge cleared of its furniture and packed with cable knits and tight jeans.
Thursday, things really get going. The more able skiers and boarders hike up (or take a SnowCat) to Highlands Bowl for "The Bowl is a Drag." At 12,392 feet, a rouged lip is about as feminine as it gets.
I didn't make it in time to do the bowl; however, I made damn sure to make it for lunch at Cloud 9, an infamous mountain-top shit show with blasting techno, champagne magnums and shirtless table top dancing. After the ski patrol kicked us out and we wobbled down the hill, had a hot tub, shower, après ski, and dinner we made our way to the Belly-Up, Aspen's answer to Governor's Ball. The $75 door charge did not include an open bar.
Friday hosts the most iconic event of the week, a drag competition at the base of Aspen Mountain. It's sort of hard to explain. It's basically a costume competition with a downhill component. Friday night they load into the gondola by the hundreds and head up to the Sun Deck (Aspen's summit restaurant) for further dancing and drinking. Saturday is the big pool party at the ARC (Aspen Recreational Center) which draws a larger, more diverse (aka younger) crowd. They must come from Denver and the surrounding valleys, one can only imagine.
So who does go?
An affluent, pretty random bunch from all over the country. Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, DC, even Tulsa, drop from lips as often as those inexorable, American book ends called Los Angeles and New York. Age skews old, 30-70, with a dashing of 20-something ski bunnies hopping about, their expenses all mysteriously paid for.
Sometimes the whole gay thing seems an odd excuse for a gathering, and even odder excuse for a ski vacation, but any excuse to tramp around one of the most beautiful places on Earth will do just fine by me. One thing remains true: Packing in all those non-stop social events really makes, "skiing the easy part ..." (If you didn't catch that reference, kindly watch the trailer below for what could have been the worst movie of 1996, Aspen Extreme.)
Aspen Gay Ski Week runs January 11-18, 2015.